Lake George, MI to Bay City, MI; 68 miles, 5-6 mph SW, cloudy, 70-80’s

The day started cloudy and cooler than predicted as it had rained overnight. However, there was a big black cloud to the west that threatened rain and worse, with storms predicted later in the day. Funny (and lucky) thing, it never did rain while I was riding. That black cloud just seemed to sit there all day. It did finally storm late afternoon while we were eating dinner. So while it was humid, the sun never really came out so the temperatures were not as high as yesterday. The route joined the Pere Marquette Rail Trail in Clare and I rode it for 30 miles or so to Midland, MI. It is another well maintained paved trail with small towns along the way. Anytime the route goes through a larger city like Midland more attention is needed to follow the cue sheet as there are many turns to navigate through bike friendlier streets. Until of course one of those streets is under construction and closed. Then one relies on dead reckoning to get back on route (the phone is the last resort). I may have mentioned our Adventure Cycling route is coexistent with US Bike Route 20. The latter is well signed to make route finding easier. I have three wildlife observations from today. I happened to look over into a woods as I passed by to see a deer calmly sitting just off the road as though it had nothing better to do than watch the traffic go by. At one point I came upon a mass tiny frog (half an inch at best, maybe tree frogs?) migration across the road. I hope I did not end any frog lives prematurely. Lastly, it appears to be a good year for rabbits, at least along the bike trail. They have been breeding like, well rabbits.

 

Lake County line to Lake George, MI; 70 miles, clouds then partly cloudy, 10-12 SW, 70-90’s, humid

The route today zigzagged to the east with a very generous tailwind for the east bound legs. The landscape continued to be mostly forest, with the occasional farm, and small lakes. There were several river crossings, such as the Muskegon River, on their way to Lake Michigan. There was one nice short segment of a rail trail to avoid a busy highway into the town of Leroy. It’s always a puzzle on how local road maintenance is managed between counties and even townships.  Segments of the same road go from good to poor and back again in the space of a few miles. Today’s weather was reminiscent of those trips across Iowa on RAGBRAI (Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), hot and humid. Those readers who have done RAGBRAI can relate I am sure. The good news is there wasn’t an “extreme heat advisory” here, only a “high heat advisory”. By starting early and keeping hydrated, it really wasn’t that bad as we were off the road by 2:30. Looks like more of the same tomorrow to look forward to.

 

Frankfort, MI to Lake County line (Free Soil, MI); 69 miles, brief rain showers, cloudy, 10-12 mph S, 70’s humid

We continued south following state road M22 along the lake shore. There were three serious climbs up and over the lake bluffs between towns at lake level. The weather was overcast and it actually rained a couple of times enough to make the road and me wet. It was actually welcome to help stay cooler in the humid air. The traffic was much less as we have moved south of the more popular tourist areas. At the city of Manistee we left Lake Michigan behind and 15 miles south of the city made a left turn to start the easterly trek across Michigan toward Ontario. That left turn seemed like a real milestone of progress toward NY. This part of Michigan still has plenty of forest but farms are becoming more frequent. We are staying tonight in the town of Wolf Lake in Lake County. So there must be some lakes around here. The area is remote enough that it necessary to drive off route to find a place to stay.

 

Bingham, MI to Frankfort, MI; 67 miles, sunny, 5-10 mph NW, 70-80’s

I rode to the end of the TART bike trail to start the morning. Then over the hill from the bay to the lake to ride along M-22. The route paralleled the Lake Michigan shoreline with the occasional large lake just inland from Lake Michigan. M-22 was a delight to ride, nice rolling terrain, good shoulders, light traffic, and plenty of shade. For you cyclists, I recommend this area to explore by bike on some great day trips. The highlight of the day was passing by Sleeping Bear National Lake Shore. It is best known for tall sand dunes along the shoreline. While we did not climb any, we did take advantage of a nice spot to have lunch in the park. The small towns along the route are all busy with  tourists as it is the season, but it is not over crowded. The last 10 miles of the ride had more serious ups and downs but the tailwind helped make them go by quickly. Otherwise, a pretty routine ride today.

 

Charlevoix, MI to Bingham, MI; 70 miles, sunny, 10-15 mph SW, 60-80’s

The route today followed back roads when available with short stretches on US 31. US 31 is also known historically as the “Dixie Highway”, because it was developed in the early 20th century to connect the Midwest with the South.  There was a lot of variety in the riding. Some roads were hilly in farms and orchards. This is prime cherry growing territory and the trees are loaded with ripe red cherries. Some roads were more flat in the trees along Lake Michigan or Torch Lake with frequent lake side homes. We had lunch at a great picnic area next to the water. After lunch I came upon some “road magic” of a cooler of cold water, like trail magic on the Appalachian Trail. My route follows the US 35 Bike Route that explains the sign. This is the first time on this trip or my earlier cross county trip that I have encountered such a thing. As we neared Traverse City the route followed  the “TART” bike trail through the city. It was a little confusing at times to discern where the trail was going. I have personal evidence that indeed Lake Michigan is as high as Lake Ontario above long term averages. It is not fake news. The bike path goes under US 31 along a canal in the city. The path was 2-3″ underwater due to the high water. No problem for my high water bike. Sally and I met up not long after that by a small beach just north of the city. By then it was hot so I got a short swim in. It was cold but refreshing. I finished the day after the swim with another 10 mile on the bike trail.

 

Mackinaw City, MI to Charlevoix, MI; 72 miles, rain in AM then clearing, 5-10 mph S, and 60-70’s

Today we started down the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. There are large bays to circumnavigate so at times we were losing ground by going west. I had an early morning surprise encounter with a bear cub on a bike trail probably no further than half a mile from Mackinaw City. He/she popped out of the woods probably only 30 feet in front of me and took off like a shot after seeing me. I immediately stopped and listened and watched to see if mom was around. No sound so I continued glad for the experience. The route followed rolling back roads, a welcome change from the busy highways of the last two days. One road is called the Tunnel of Trees Road. It is rather narrow and as the name implies goes through the forest near the lake. That’s when it started to rain. It had to happen sometime. There were many expensive second homes every now and then back in the trees on the lake. These bays are a big summer resort area. We had lunch/breakfast in the town of Harbor Springs that was over flowing with visitors in stark contrast to the beginning of the day. The remaining 30 miles of the ride was much more congested but followed a good paved bike trail with short stretches on side roads along the lake shore to Charlevoix. The bike path keeps bikes off of busy US 31.

 

Gulliver, MI to St. Ignace, MI; 68 miles, sunny, slight breeze SW, 50-70’s

We were fortunate to have another beautiful day for riding. The route continued on US 2 to St. Ignace. This being a going -home-after -the -weekend day the traffic was even greater than yesterday. In St. Ignace it got backed up to go over the Mackinac Bridge to the lower peninsula of Michigan. The bridge goes over the Mackinac Strait which separates Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Actually, they are really just one lake. I made good time so we had plenty of time to take a passenger ferry to Mackinac Island for dinner. For those who don’t know, the island is vehicle free. One gets around by walking, riding a bike, or by horse drawn carriage. There is a nine mile bike loop around the island. Tempting, but common sense prevailed. Bikes are not allowed on the bridge. The official Adventure Cycle route provides two options to get across the straight. The first is to ferry to the island then take another ferry across the straight to Mackinac City. The second is to get a ride from someone from the bridge authority. To save time and money we will drive across first thing tomorrow and rejoin the route in Mackinac City.

 

 

Wells. MI to Gulliver, MI; 78 miles, sunny 10-20 NW mostly tailwind, 60-70’s

We became reacquainted with US 2 today. If you have been a consistent reader of the blog and have a good memory, you will remember that we rode US 2 in Montana for days. US 2 more or less parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline between Escanaba and Mackinac our next destination. The ride started out on a very nice new bike trail out of Wells and then followed some parallel side roads. At about 10 miles the route joined US 2. It follows the lake shore or cuts across the forest between bays. As US 2 is the major east-west highway along the lake it has a high volume of “recreational and commercial” traffic as the map says. I can verify that by experience today. The good news is that it has a wide shoulder. Two observations about riding along a busy highway. You always need to be alert  to the traffic of course, but you also need to watch where you are going to avoid the shoulder debris; stones, chunks of dead tires, hunks of wood off logging trucks, road kill in various stages of decomposition, and miscellaneous stuff like bolts and random hunks of unidentifiable metal. I wonder, where do all these parts come from,  and does it matter that they’re lying in the road instead of where they  came from. You do not hear the sounds of nature such as bird songs as was true on low traffic county roads unless there is a temporary lull in the action. Instead it is the whoosh of wind as vehicles pass including a little push when semi-trucks pass, the roar of engines, and the sizzle of tires on the pavement. Tonight we are staying in the “Dreamland Motel” that is not close to anything, and that has an attached restaurant and bakery. Perfect.

 

Michigamme River, MI to Wells, MI; 73 miles, sunny, 10 mph SW, 50-70’s

Today’s ride was back on a more major road, state road M-69. The first 15 miles were somewhat busy, especially with full and empty logging trucks. They thinned out once I passed the Louisiana Pacific pulp plant. However, at least one loaded truck went flying past the plant, and in general loaded trucks seemed to come and go somewhat randomly. While the shoulder was somewhat narrow, the pavement was good, and there were only moderate rollers. So I could make pretty good time and distance until we reached Escanaba and Wells Little Bay, which is a sub-bay of Green Bay, which is part of Lake Michigan. Wells is just east of Escanaba. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the ride, other than we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone and reached the Great Lakes. And yes, Lake Michigan is high just like Lake Ontario. The three photos sum up the extent of the scenery today.

 

Conover, WI to the Michigamme River, MI; 63 miles, sunny, 10-15 mph N, and 50-70’s

The weather was 10 degrees cooler today so great weather for biking. The route continued east on county roads until we crossed the Brule River and entered Michigan. But Wisconsin had one last surprise (no not one of those Wisconsin Badgers) as a black bear galloped across the road about 200 yards ahead of me earlier in the morning. Now we need to see a moose. I think there is a better chance in the UP (Upper Peninsula). As we have all noticed, when you cross a state line there are differences. When you are biking you tend to focus on things like the pavement quality, signage, the terrain, the availability of services, and the traffic. It was immediately obvious that in Michigan so far the roads are rougher, more densely populated, and definitely hillier than WI. But strangely, there were no flies buzzing around my head, they all seemed to stay in WI. Curious. We shall see what tomorrow brings. We passed through the town of Crystal Falls, MI late in the ride. The photo loses the perspective of looking down the steep hill on main street toward the hill climb as the road leaves town. We stay in a variety of places, ranging from chains to mom and pop motels. We prefer the latter. Tonight we are staying in a motel/fishing camp a few miles east of Crystal Falls on the Michigamme River.